Dramatic turnaround at St. Anthony started with coffee

It’s easy to see that coffee enjoys an almost unmatched popularity in the United States. From the giants like Starbucks and Caribou to the myriad of independent coffee houses, it’s not difficult to find a place to pick up a cup of joe.

In addition to being a big moneymaker for many companies, it also appears that coffee can lead to season-saving changes for sports teams. Just ask the St. Anthony Village High School girls basketball team.

After the Huskies won only one of their first nine games, senior co-captains Kelly Lawson and Emily Peterson requested a meeting with head coach Mary Jo Hadler.

“I was starting to get frustrated and the captains called and asked me to go get coffee,” Hadler said. “They asked me not to give up on them and they were going to turn this around.”

Not long after that coffee outing, St. Anthony picked up its second of the win of the season and since then has won six in a row.

“I think that the key has been learning to play together,” said Hadler. “I lost two 1,000-point scorers (Kirsten Whitney, Jenna Goldsmith) and I think we needed to learn who was going to step up and fill those shoes and not have one person expect to do everything.”

In reality, the coffee didn’t play a part in the turnaround as much as the team buying into some changes instituted by Hadler and her coaching staff, which this year includes Hadler’s father Doc Melles.

“We just went back and changed things up, kind of became more of a zone team,” said Hadler. “We use our intelligence and throw some more things at people -- different zones, different traps, those kinds of things. We’ve gotten really good buy-in from the girls on that.”

The defensive changes have resulted in fewer points against for the Huskies. In their first 11 games they gave up an average of 60 points per game but that number has dropped to 39 points per game in their last six victories.

Offensively, Hadler likes her team’s shooting ability but it took a while for the players to begin believing in that ability.

“It was having them feel comfortable taking outside shots,” Hadler said. “They don’t have to be threes. We don’t encourage threes necessarily. Get started with some twos, 10-12 footers. We have a good shooting team.”

The current winning streak started with a victory over Spring Lake Park in the final round of the Roseville holiday tournament, continued with another non-conference win over Irondale and now also includes four Tri-Metro Conference wins.

The biggest of those victories was a 54-38 win over Concordia Academy.

“The highlight of the season was definitely beating Concordia Academy,” said Hadler. “They were undefeated in the conference. We went there and beat them pretty handily. That was a big step for us.”

Lawson and junior Breanna Bergquist have led the offensive resurgence. Lawson averages 15.4 points per game and Bergquist is second on the team at 10.4 points per contest.

“Kelly Lawson has definitely stepped up and had a huge impact,” said Hadler. “She’s had only one game without a double-double.”

Bergquist showed plenty of signs of what kind of player she could be last year but she wasn’t necessarily a o-to option playing behind Goldsmith.

“Breanna didn’t play as much last year because we had Jenna (Goldsmith) and a couple other players,” said Hadler. “So this is a new role for her to have this much attention on her. I think she’s still figuring that out.”

Other bright spots in the lineup for Hadler have been Peterson and freshmen Bonnie Zeller and Kalli Wiebusch. Peterson provides an outside-shooting threat while the two freshmen have been pleasant surprises.

St. Anthony will try to keep its winning ways going when it travels to Minnehahah Academy on Friday. The Redhawks are one of three one-loss teams in the Tri-Metro Conference and those teams are chasing conference-leading St. Croix Lutheran.

Next week St. Anthony hosts St. Paul Academy on Jan. 28 and DeLaSalle on Jan. 31.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com.

Tri-Metro Conference girls basketball standings (Through Jan. 19)

  Conf. Overall Games behind
St. Croix Lutheran 4-0 9-3 -
St. Anthony Village 5-1 7-10 -
Concordia Academy 4-1 10-3 1/2
Minnehaha Academy 3-1 9-4 1
DeLaSalle 4-2 8-8 1
Visitation 2-2 6-6 2
Providence Academy 2-3 4-10 2 1/2
St. Paul Academy 1-3 7-4 3
St. Agnes 1-3 6-5 3
Breck 1-3 3-6 3
Blake 1-4 4-8 3 1/2
Mounds Park Academy 0-5 4-7 4 1/2


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